This line – whose relevance will soon become clear – comes from a 1977 song in which the punk rock group The Clash anticipated Dave Cameron’s arrival on the political scene:
“He’s in love with rock’n’roll woaahh/ He’s in love with gettin’ stoned woaahh/ He’s in love with Janie Jones/ But he don’t like his boring job, no…”
That such prescience (but for the identity of the love interest) was on display follows from the image of Cameron emerging from Sasha Swire’s upcoming book Diary of an MP’s Wife. Mrs Swire, married to a former Tory minister, is about to publish her catty memoirs that, judging by the available excerpts, will leave no turn unstoned.
Cameron is depicted as a louche, dipsomaniac and aspirationally priapic lightweight who routinely shirked his government duties in favour of what he called ‘chillaxing’.
Once, when political families were out on a picnic, Dave told Mrs Swire that he’d like “to drag her into the bushes and give her one.” How any woman could resist such romantic wooing is beyond me, but apparently Mrs Swire did.
As a keen watcher of Cameron’s tenure, I find this portrait eminently believable. Then of course I don’t know Dave personally. Sarah Vine, poor Michael Gove’s wife, does, and she commendably sprang to Dave’s defence in her column.
Since the Goves fell out with the Camerons over Brexit, this shows Miss Vine’s magnanimity and even-handedness. However, the way she went about that task highlights her less admirable qualities, such as a lamentable deficit of intellect:
“The David Cameron I knew, especially in the early years of his premiership when it was still possible to bypass the No 10 machine, was well-read, a good listener and someone who empathised and felt things deeply. Yes, he enjoyed a glass of wine and listening to music (The Clash being a favourite). But he only ever did those things off-duty. The rest of the time he was deadly serious.”
If Miss Vine didn’t realise she was in effect arguing that Cameron was unfit for the job (as if we didn’t know that already), she’s dim. If she did, she’s perfidious. Either way she shares with her protagonist a complete detachment from our civilisation.
My contention is that no one able to listen to the disgusting cacophony produced by The Clash – and rank it as his favourite music – should be allowed anywhere near the government. And no one who doesn’t realise this should be allowed to write for a newspaper with 1.5 million readers.
Such people are barbarians, which doesn’t necessarily make them bad persons. They may indeed have all the fine qualities enumerated by Miss Vine: capacity for listening, empathising and feeling things deeply. (I question the well-read part, or else the nature of Dave’s preferred reading matter. I suspect it’s the literary analogue of The Clash, which is astounding in a man educated at Eton and Oxford.)
However, good, bad or indifferent, barbarians shouldn’t lead great Western nations. That capacity presupposes, in part, acting as the bulwark against the incessant barbarian onslaught. And how can a barbarian defend his nation against barbarism? He’d be more likely to fling the castle gates wide open.
Music is the distillation of Western culture. It shows how high the human spirit can soar, how it can approach the divine. No one has ever expressed this better than Plato:
“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the Universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, gaiety and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good and just and beautiful.”
Aristotle went even further, directly linking music and politics. He decried musical innovation, especially of a more sensual kind, because he believed it led to political subversion. Agree or disagree, the greatest minds of even the pre-Christian period understood the transcendent nature of music.
In Christendom, otherwise known as Western civilisation, music became the most poignant expression of its aesthetic, cultural and spiritual content – and therefore of any other.
It was also able to keep barbarians at bay much longer than the other aspects of our culture. Sublime music was written throughout the twentieth century and, as my friend James MacMillan proves, it’s still being written.
Victorious barbarians have failed to destroy it, as they’ve destroyed just about everything else. But they’ve succeeded in marginalising it, indeed in desemanticising the very word ‘music’. It’s now applied to the anomic, anti-musical, anti-cultural din accompanying cretinous lyrics pitched at the mental level of an average paperweight.
You know, the sort of stuff spewed out by the likes of The Clash or George Osborne’s favourite Niggas with Attitude. Had I known this duo’s musical tastes in advance, I could have predicted their disastrous tenure, wholly committed as it was to undermining Britain’s constitution and promoting homomarriage.
Real music hasn’t just been marginalised. Even worse, it has also been ideologised, and isn’t everything these days?
Here’s the view of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony spread by Vox, an online publication started by former Washington Post correspondents and regularly visited by over eight million people.
Their writer talks about “… the wealthy white men who embraced Beethoven and turned his symphony into a symbol of their superiority and importance. For some in other groups – women, LGBTQ+ people, people of colour – Beethoven’s symphony may be predominantly a reminder of classical music’s history of exclusion and elitism.”
The chap who wrote this moronic drivel must wear upmarket sports clothes and handle his upmarket Negroni glass with practised elegance. But he might as well wear wolf skins and swing a battle-axe. He – along with the other protagonists of this article – is a barbarian who isn’t just at the door. He’s busy reducing the castle to smouldering ruins.